Nothing quite compares to a British panto. I did not grow up here, but in my first year studying in the UK a few years back, I joined my university’s theatre society. Traditionally, in December, the programme included a panto and I was thrown into its unique and bonkers genre.
This week, I attended my first panto in quite a while, and what a show it was! Charming Dick, written by Paul Emelion Daly and which is playing until 23 December at the Cockpit Theatre, is an adult LGBTQ show from the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
It follows Dick coming to London to seek fame, fortune and the big time, but instead ending up working in a launderette with his Aunt Twankey (the T is silent). But the Wicked Witch is determined to get her evil hands on the launderette and steal poor Twanky’s magic lamp, which can turn gay bars into gold, whilst the Witch’s sexually confused son Prince Charming is being pursued by Eurovision wannabe Babe.
This was a really fun night for me, with fearless humour and banter, and lots of talent! The musical elements directed by Patrick Rufey brought out the cast’s beautiful voices. There were known songs like “Defying Gravity” with a twist and the obligatory “All I want for Christmas is you” which actually made me so joyful about the fact that… yes, it’s Christmas time again!
The classic elements of booing and hissing were there as the characters went through dilemmas or couldn’t see the mouse that was innocently running across the stage, and it can only be the sign of a good time if the actors can make the audience scream “Big dick!” and “wankey!”.
The show is opened by Abigail Carter Simpson as Little Red Riding Hood and plenty of other characters. Her singing voice is phenomenal and her energy on stage really captured everyone’s attention.
Alistair Frederick, playing main character Dick, also had a beautiful singing voice and Ienjoyed seeing Dick’s personality change as he went from that guy from up North who just arrived in London to Soho regular and confident lover.
Matthew Floyd Jones as the Witch was a joy to watch. He clearly had a lot of experience playing these kinds of characters and you could see his pleasure at playing her. Those heels and velvet cape suited him perfectly!
Tim McArthur as Twankey was also very comfortable in each of the launderette’s costumes and didn’t hesitate to play with his fellow actors. He was always ready to take on funny or awkward situations with full confidence.
Finally, Stewart Briggs as the Prince Charming who has trouble coming out and has an unusually intimate relationship to his mother the Witch, showed the perfect balance between the high royal status and the innocence of discovery of who he is. Am I the only one who saw how shiny his lips were? Did he wear lip gloss?
The five performers were all the stars of the show in their own way, and each brought their own individuality to the story. My favourite ensemble moment was the 12 days of Christmas song involving dildos and balls as well as flying chocolate and snow. It was a true exercise of coordination and focus – all mixed in with humour and a loudly laughing audience all around the arena stage!
I enjoyed Daly’s writing because it didn’t hesitate to comment on current events and take every innuendo to its peak. However, I didn’t feel that the joke making fun of the Chinese accent fit with the rest of the show, as there wasn’t anything similar with other accents.
Overall this is a fun night with a great ensemble and a chance to really find one’s Christmas spirit!
Review by Sophie Tergeist